RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Attorney General Mark Herring has received more than 500 complaints of price gouging across Virginia, including the Richmond region. His office said they continue to get more complaints as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“Attorney General Herring and his team are reviewing all complaints and will be aggressively investigating any potential violations and pursuing violators,” Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Herring, told 8News.
Gomer said the reports are on items online and in stores, like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, bottled water, grocery items, and more.
Herring said online stores, small mom and pop shops and large retailers are all being investigated.
“There are always some people out there who will take advantage of a crisis or an emergency to make money,” he told 8News.
The attorney general said he’s sent out warning letters to more than 110 businesses requiring them to send documentation of their prices before and during the pandemic and to tell him how many of the items were sold.
“When most people get a demand letter from an attorney general telling them to stop price gouging, they do,” he explained.
Herring also asks businesses to prove whether they had to raise prices because of supply issues.
“You know, it’s frustrating,” said Tracey Mcduffie, who was shopping in Richmond on Tuesday.
Mcduffie thinks the higher prices she’s paying on essential items could be price gouging, and she might be right.
“I was like I usually come in here and pay this price, no I’m not paying that, you know what I’m saying? I just decided I’m not going to go into that store anymore,” she explained. “I actually do think some businesses are taking advantage of people. I really do.”
Those who ignore the warning could be fined up to $2,500 per violation but Herring said he hasn’t had to take that action yet.
Herring said he is working with online retailers like Amazon and EBay to make sure they’re being more aggressive in patrolling their websites for price gouging. Herring also noted that he depends on people reporting the gouging so he can investigate the complaints.
Herring’s office provided a sample of the warning letter that is sent to businesses and information for people to use if they wish to make a complaint:
- By phone: (800) 552-9963
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Price Gouging Complaint Form – *Preferred method of submitting complaints
- General Online Complaint Form
- Online Contact Form
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